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The Work of William Blake

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The Work of William Blake William Blake, a visionary English poet and painter who was a precursor of English Romanticism, combined the vocations of engraver, painter, and poet. He was born on Nov. 28, 1757, the son of a London hosier. Blake spent all of his relatively quiet life in London except for a stay at Felpham, on the southern coast of England, from 1800 to 1803. Largely self-taught, Blake was, however, widely read, and his poetry shows the influence of the German mystic Jakob Boehme, for example, and of Swedenborgianism. As a child, Blake wanted to become a painter. He was sent to drawing school at age 10 and at the age of 14 was apprenticed to James Basire, an engraver. From sketching frequently at Westminster Abbey, he developed an interest in the Gothic style, which he combined with a taste for the art of Raphael, Michelangelo, and Durer. He exhibited his first artwork in 1780, married Catherine Boucher in 1782, and published his first poems, Poetical Sketches, in 1783. He quickly withdrew them from circulation, however, apparently offended by the condescending preface written by a patron. Amid its traditional, derivative elements are hints of his later innovative style and themes. As with all his poetry, this volume reached few contemporary readers. Blake produced and published his other works himself, except those which remained in manuscript at his death, by using his own unique method of engraving both illustration and text on copper plates and colouring the printed volumes by hand. He executed numerous engravings for books by others as well as watercolours and other kinds of paintings. Blake gave only ... ... middle of paper ... ...as not well known in his lifetime, but his influence is apparent in the work of several painters who knew him when he was an old man, particularly Samuel Palmer. He also influenced the Pre-Raphaelite painters of the 19th century, and his first editor was W. B. Yeats, who knew much of his poetry by heart. James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, and Joyce Cary, among others, found inspiration in his writings, and he has had considerable influence on modern literary criticism through the work of Northrop Frye. Today Blake is one of the most frequently discussed poets. Of those who actually knew Blake, Palmer left the most interesting estimate of him: "In him you saw the Maker, the Inventor . . . He was energy itself and shed around him a kindling influence, an atmosphere of life, full of the idea. . . . He was a man without a mask."
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